Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review

Amnesia just might drive you insane, but in a very good way since this is one of the scariest horror games you're ever going to play.

by

Latter-day sequels to Alone in the Dark have nothing on Amnesia: The Dark Descent. This first-person adventure from the creepmeisters at Frictional Games who gave us the unsettling Penumbra trilogy is the true follow-up to the original escapades of sleuth Edward Carnby. The game oozes Lovecraftian menace as it strands its protagonist alone in the insanity-inducing darkness of a haunted ruin where spooks lurk around every other corner. In some ways, the game is actually superior to its legendary inspiration, with no cheesy action sequences separating you from the ghoulies and ghosties that want to either eat you or drive you round the bend.

Alone in the dark? Yeah, but you won't want to stay there too long given the whole insanity thing.

You take on the role of Daniel, who awakens in the darkened halls of Brennenburg Castle at the start of the game with a bad case of--you guessed it--amnesia. Early stages have a bit of a Memento vibe, with Daniel trying to discover hints about his past through reading notes that he apparently left for himself and searching through old diary entries and random scraps of paper. Hints are also provided by flashbacks that regularly pop up out of nowhere. It's a little cliched, but Frictional does some smart things with the old hero-with-amnesia gimmick. The story is fascinating and is told through easily digested chunks scattered through the game. Read everything you find, and you'll be drawn into a chilling castle populated by a lone protagonist who is a bit off his nut and being hunted by shadowy somethings that are more than a teensy bit spine-chilling. From the very beginning, you know you're being pushed toward some great revelation that won't be all sunshine and lollipops. Yet at the same time, you can't wait to get there.

The story and structure are brilliantly realized. For starters, this is a real horror game, which means that you're in trouble from the get-go. Daniel is a few fries short of a Happy Meal and has absolutely no recourse to weapons or any sort of magic or special gadgets. So when the shambling monsters shamble by, you have no choice but to avoid them. Take them head-on, and you either go as crazy as Lovecraft's Charles Dexter Ward or get slaughtered. But you can't hide out in the castle's many shadows. Daniel is unhinged enough that he's afraid of the dark, so the longer you cower in corners or even walk down darkened hallways, the more rapidly he goes insane. As a result, you're faced with two unpleasant options: stay in the light and risk catching a glimpse of some mind-blasting monstrosity that can rip you to pieces, or creep through the darkness and take a chance on winning an all-expenses-paid trip to the funny farm. At times, you don't even have the former alternative. Tinderboxes and lamp oil, which are needed to shed some light on things, are hard to come by, so you find yourself sprinting between the pools of light that dot the game like oases in the blackness.

Everything conspires to totally creep you out. You find yourself racing across rooms avoiding monsters that often aren't even there because the big bads are tough enough yet rare enough that they represent more of an occasional hazard than an oppressive force that would turn the game into an action-oriented sneaker. Spooky, shadowy castle rooms add to the uncanny feeling that something awful is about to happen any second. Most of the rooms provide subtle chills, through the presence of ruined walls, smashed-open ceilings letting in rain, and lone candles sputtering in the middle of lonely cellar chambers. Going insane comes with interesting visual effects as well, including smearing colors, teetering camera angles, and bugs crawling across the screen. You never know what's really there. Sound effects ratchet up the tension. Daniel mutters to himself when going bonkers. Rain pours outside. Footsteps echo out of nowhere. Wind comes up suddenly in closed rooms and snuffs out candles. Disembodied voices cry for help.

Just like in the Lovecraft stories that inspired Amnesia, the monsters here drive you insane or rip you to pieces.

All that said, Amnesia is more of a spooky experience than a tough game. Although the game is extremely eerie and tough to deal with because of all that "go nuts in the dark" stuff, most of the puzzles are pretty easy as long as you keep your eyes open and can deal with the often-convoluted layout of the castle. Puzzles generally involve hunting for keys, picking up various objects, jumping to avoid certain death, pulling levers, and that sort of thing. You probably won't get stumped, although the puzzles are involved and organic enough that they don't seem like pointless busywork. A sense of accomplishment can be gained through successfully finishing most of the brainteasers. Instead of just clicking on doors to open them and on levers to pull them, you have to grab onto objects with the mouse and then manipulate them in a somewhat realistic manner by pulling the mouse back, pushing it forward, and so on. So at times you do things like stack boxes to get out of rooms and smash out sections of walls with rocks. It's an interesting conceit, and the physics do serve to make Amnesia feel unique, but you might occasionally long for the ability to stop fussing with the mouse and just handle everything with good old point-and-click mechanics.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is undoubtedly going to take a place among the most frightening horror games ever made. It is a touch short, at maybe six or so hours of gameplay, although you can't gripe too much about that given the cheap $20 price tag as an online download. Regardless of length, this is one uncanny, unsettling, and just plain old scary experience, especially with the lights out and your headphones on.

The Good
Creepy Lovecraftian atmosphere and monsters
Good mix of physics-based puzzles with old-fashioned adventure brainteasers
Spooky visuals and disturbing insanity effects
Horror-show sound effects that will keep you on the edge of your seat
The Bad
Physics-based interface can require some annoying mouse maneuvers
Dated visuals
8.5
Great
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39 comments
widdowson91
widdowson91

I've just got this at a bargain price off the Humble Bundle Store. Can't wait to get stuck in to it.

ionusX
ionusX

finally finished this game for myself.. worth every penny :) now i need to somehow convince my bro ryan to go play it. if i can its safe to say i will have submerssed him in gaming. this is the wow factor right here

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Yeah I like the fact that this game DOES NOT rely on constant jumpscares like the mods this game has.  The mods (called custom stories) usually rely on jumpscares but this game is a slow burn that brings in the terror and fear slowly until you finally go face to face with it.

The atmosphere is so overwhelming and tense.  GO BUY THIS GAME!

thekillerjones
thekillerjones

I literally cannot play it for more than 15-20 minutes at a time...it scares the bejesus out of me. Not with shocking racy moments, but with a constant slow, cold, cruel and paralyzing fear 

goriv
goriv

dead space and alan wake is kinda like "pikachu" compared to this sick game

Stevenuccj
Stevenuccj

I love finding that rare forum which does not consist entirely of fanboys for said game.  Good stuff.  

DarknautXXX
DarknautXXX

Putting yourself in a dark room with headphones is not needed to enjoy the horror of this game. I played this game in bright morning with bluejays bitchin' outside the open window and with one of my parents playing the radio downstairs and I still had eyes and ears only for my computer screen. Its the kind of horror that doesn't necessarily shock you and throw you back in your seat, but grabs hold of your unwitting attention and doesn't let go.

neuroboy
neuroboy

I disagree with "Physics-based interface can require some annoying mouse maneuvers" - I just finished playing this and think it works just fine, and is one of the best object manipulation efforts I've seen in a game... If only 'Trespassser' could've done it like this! Overall, this is an excellent game experience, marred only slightly by some overacting in the voice/narration department by the lead character. I still give it a 10 though.

CrysisFPS
CrysisFPS

Overall, good review but the "dated visuals" point was unfair. If anything, these visuals had set new standards for Indie development and from an artistic perception couldn't fit the game any better.

 

Uniquely scary, compelling, and well-written, this is a horror/adventure game that anyone without heart problems should BUY, never mind try out.

 

And custom stories are bound to keep you playing longer after you finish the main storyline.

 

Horror is HELL!!

IamNick2k11
IamNick2k11

This game is scary! People how say it's not are lying or are playing in broad daylight with the sound off 

TheWriter30
TheWriter30

AMAZING GAME, thank you producers! Thank you developers, thank you technology for this game

davion100
davion100

Dated visuals ? Are you kidding me ? The graphics are awesome... Plus the mouse manuevers for opening doors and other things make it more realistic and more challenging especally when you are running. Nothing bad about this...

sensfanVone
sensfanVone

Just bought this along with a bunch of other goodies, dunno if I have the guts to play it though. :p

vadagar1
vadagar1

8.5 wow that's kinda harsh

 

this game should get 9.5 AT LEAST....

 

no bugs (none I could find) and the BEST no THE ONLY horror game that actually scared the sh!t out of me and I'm 28 years old and I have been through things that would put the dandy people of Europe and the US into a mental hospital forever.

 

this game will make you scream like a little girl.

 

BUT the best ways to play is:

1- alone.

2- in the dark.

3- headphones.

4- lots of underwear change.

 

if you have a heart condition or a weak constitution DON'T play this game, cause I think this can ACTUALLY give someone a heart attack

 

and graphics are dated .... wtf!!!! they are not dated...

HammaTimeSlave
HammaTimeSlave

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is much more horrifying than any shooter horror game simply because in shooters you have a gun to rely on. In this game you have to run and hide in closets while hallicunating in the dark hoping desperately that you won't be found. I only wish this game was longer

MustSeeMelons
MustSeeMelons

A very good game, especially if you are tired of th mainstream ** ;) 10/10, graphics look good and atmospheric and the mouse movements are a nice touch^^

jimmytaker
jimmytaker

RE Horror game... ?? As for me, it became a 3rd person shooter some years ago...

mep69
mep69

@never-named Ye man, i don't particularly find the visuals to be dated. It's just a style, that's how they wanted their game and it did what they wanted it to do. As for 'Physics-based interface can require some annoying mouse maneuvers' I for one enjoyed this concept; as it made me feel like i was Daniel and i was opening the doors, pulling the lever and turning the valves ETC.

HLno1
HLno1

@never-named So true

Re-Skull
Re-Skull

i played it all in the dark room alone after 12 of night ! but still it's own atmosphere is most terrifying !!! fantastic story and atmosphere as a good Horror game should having these

GunEye
GunEye

It doesn't get any more scary than this.... What a fantastic horror game!

never-named
never-named

@Kevin-V -- I never negated the criticism, just found the observation a bit superficial is all. I doubt using top-of-the-line, ultra high shader-laden visuals would make for convincing horror...

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@never-named -- Why yes--this game has dated visuals. That's just a statement of fact.

Hermiro
Hermiro

Had this for a year now - maybe it's time to run through it? Too many great games on my steam account since I buy 5-6 games every Christmas sale :)

Ixidor56
Ixidor56

@thekillerjones very true! I just finished it, played in section of 1 hour at a time. Now I'll go play monkey island lol

niv0070
niv0070

 @vadagar1 watchout!! weve got a badass over here! (" I'm 28 years old and I have been through things that would put the dandy people of Europe and the US into a mental hospital forever.")

 

Dude.. I have only one year to the army and I live in Israel.. there is no scarier place than Israel during a war.. and I lived in one war..

it would get you into a mental institution

CrysisFPS
CrysisFPS

 @mep69 On top of that, I actually found the manoeuvers to be far less stressful than in Penumbra.

CrysisFPS
CrysisFPS

 @buckwild73 Yes, they were. It's rare to find as amazing lighting as in Amnesia.

 

josh7845
josh7845

@niv0070 @vadagar1 אחי, זה לא כלכך גרוע לגור פה חחח :)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • Unix/Linux
    Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a first person survival horror game about immersion, discovery and living through a nightmare.
    8.6
    Average User RatingOut of 2148 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Amnesia: The Dark Descent
    Developed by:
    Frictional Games
    Published by:
    Frictional Games, THQ
    Genres:
    Action, 3D, Open-World, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
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